The Oldest Nation-state in Europe? Who was the first Portuguese?
Enter that question in Google and the answer you get is unexpected.
But, it starts in Galicia - today is a province of Northwestern Spain, and tied to Portugal’s origins. Portuguese is derived from Luso-Gailico, a “corruption” of common Latin. Today, the Galician language is very similar to modern Portuguese, and in the 11th century the Galicia and Northern Portugal formed the fragile frontier of Europe with Moorish forces.
By 1090, a new state was created under Count Henrique from Burgundy, France. They called it Portucale, a name that had been used as early as the days of ancient Carthage. Portus Cale referred to either the port town of Cale (Gaia today, on the Douro River) or Cale and its neighboring town and today Portus is known as Porto.
When D. Henrique died, his wife took the county of Portucale, much to the chagrin of their son D. Afonso Henriques. D. Afonso called his mother out in 1128, just outside the capital Guimaraes at the Battle of Sao Mamede – and replaced her as ruler. At this point Guimarães was the capital of Portugal, a heavily fortified granite city north of Porto. The Minho River was then, as it is today, on the border with Galicia, and the Moors held the lands south of the Mondego River. Today, Guimarães is still one of the country's most historic cities, its medieval streets are filled with ancient monuments such as its castle, with eight 92 ft. high towers, built in the 10th century to protect the population from attacks by the Moors. D. Afonso Henriques was baptized in the small Romanesque chapel next to the castle.
Next, the fiery D. Afonso tuned his attention to the Moors, pushing them back beyond the Mondego River expanding his county. In 1139 D. Afonso won a legendary battle at Ourique, defeating five Caliphs and declaring his nation’s independence. By 1143 the warrior king’s new nation had won Papal recognition. By 1147 he led his small army to victory, taking the city of Lisbon.
So, in 2039, Portugal will be 900 years old. Doesn’t look a day over 500!